North Carolina non-profit gets $75 million broadband stimulus award

MCNC, an independent non-profit organization that employs advanced networking technologies and systems to improve learning and collaboration throughout North Carolina’s K-20 education community, has been awarded $75.75 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Broadband Recovery Funds through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) to support the Golden LEAF Rural Broadband Initiative (GLRBI). This award builds on MCNC’s Round 1 BTOP award, a $39.9 million project (including $28.2 million in BTOP Funds) granted in January 2010 to build 480 miles of fiber in 37 counties in southeastern and western N.C.

The GLRBI will enhance the existing North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), which MCNC has operated for the last quarter century, and will add to the existing ERC Broadband Network operated by the non-profit ERC Broadband in western North Carolina. Approximately 1,300 miles of new middle-mile fiber will be built throughout the state under this latest award. In addition, about 400 miles of existing fiber will be provided to the GLRBI through lease agreements and donations. The middle-mile is the sector of the network that connects last-mile facilities such as telecom company local interconnection points (central offices) with the commercial Internet and with national and global advanced research networks such as Internet2 and National Lambda Rail.

The Golden LEAF Foundation Board of Directors awarded $24 million in matching funds for the Round 2 grant. An additional $5.25 million in match was raised from the MCNC endowment, donations of land from individual community colleges and universities, and a donation of already-installed conduit in northeastern North Carolina from the Albemarle Pamlico Economic Development Corporation. UNC-Chapel Hill’s Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute for Entrepreneurship and School of Government helped prepare the GLRBI application.

MCNC raised $11.7 million in matching funds for its successful Round 1 application through private sources, including $4 million from the MCNC endowment.